19 February 2008

The Case for a Do-over in Florida

There has been much discussion over the past few weeks of the possibility that Democrats will enter the convention in August without a clear nominee. Concerns abound over superdelegates determining the outcome. Because Republican-dominated legislatures voted to move the Michigan and Florida primaries ahead of the dates specified by party rules, the Democratic National Committee has ruled that their delegates will not be seated at the convention.

In the case of Florida, it appears that the knowledge that the delegates would not be seated, coupled with the lack of campaign appearances in the state by the candidates, depressed turnout in the January 29 primary. According to floridavoterfile.com, Democrats currently outnumber Republicans, with 39.3% of voters registered as Democrats compared to 36.0% registered as Republicans. In the primary, 1,949,498 Republicans cast presidential ballots, compared to 1,749,920 Democrats. This turnout by party should be compared to the Super Tuesday results, where I did an analysis on the next morning and found Democratic turnout vastly outnumbered Republicans by 62% to 38%. Even other Southern states that have gone Republican in recent presidential elections, such as Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas saw higher Democratic than Republican turnout on Super Tuesday.

I would argue that these numbers indicate that Florida Democratic turnout on January 29 was depressed by the foreknowledge that the delegates would not be seated. After the debacle in 2000, disenfranchisement of Florida votes by Republicans is not a situation that should be allowed to be repeated. Those who voted in the January 29 primary would not be harmed by a do-over, since they would be free to vote again.

A second primary would be very expensive, but the two remaining candidates are setting fundraising records, and I think they could be called upon to provide the bulk of the funding for a new primary. If the candidates would come together now and decide to jointly fund a primary in mid-July, that would provide a window for campaigning in Florida once the other primaries are over. The agreement also could allow for the primary to be waived if one candidate has amassed a large enough lead that addition of the superdelegates along with the Florida and Michigan delegates would have no impact on the outcome.

No comments: